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Starting a business in Manchester: Formisimo

Manchester's latest tech start-up reveals the city's best entrepreneur events, and the two key sectors "straddled" by the local business community

Company name: Formisimo
Founder: Al Mackin and Tom New
Founded: 2014
Description: Checkout and form analytics tool – we show our clients why their customers don't complete the online checkout process and how they can streamline it to increase sales

What’s great about starting a business in Manchester?

Manchester is a great place to start a business; you can hop between areas quickly and with ease, it's vibrant and has the bars, restaurants and culture that a young team are looking for and it has excellent transport links.

There's a great business community here with all the support channels needed for inception, growth and exit.

What business support in Manchester have you used? How was it?

We're a global business with customers in 88 countries already, so although there's a wealth of e-commerce businesses based in the North West the majority of our customers are outside of the UK.

Manchester has an ambition to be a top five cities in Europe for technology and start-ups, so there's a pipeline of projects and support for technology start-ups. The breadth and cost of office space is good for a city of this size, and we chose to be based at MediaCity as it's a micro-city within a city, supported by a wealth of restaurants, open space and shops.

Name the top three reasons to set up a business in Manchester:

  1. There's a wealth of professional support here to help you get funded, cover the legals and provide on-going support.
  2. It's a vibrant, growing city with a great ambition. For those few hours when you're not at your desk you'll love living here.
  3. You won't be alone; there's a lot of new businesses being formed in Manchester, and you can share that journey with them.

Where could Manchester be better / what does it need?

One of the things lacking in the North (vs London) is angels; they're an important part of early funding rounds and whilst we have had success stories up here there's relatively few significant tech based exits where the founders remain, and want to become true angels.

There's no easy fix to this, and the definition of a true angel is more character based than ability to invest. The efforts taking place to improve the number of technology start-ups in Manchester will help more angels emerge hopefully.

How easy has it been to access finance to grow?

We had a sensible view on investment, so we found accessing finance easy. There's a great fund up here called the North West Fund, and it has been highly supportive of us from start to present.

We scratched the surface with banks but they're rarely right for early stage businesses in our sector, however we've been supported by small grants (such as a UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) grant and the Growth Accelerator grant) which have been both helpful financially and exposed us to more knowledge.

Earlier in 2014 we were accepted in to Seedcamp, Europe's best accelerator based at Google Campus in London – they invest in companies across the UK.

Where do you go to network in Manchester?

There's a great local business community that straddles the two key sectors in Manchester; creative/digital and professional services. There's plenty of events to go to, and we tend not to go to traditional networking events but instead engage with informative events or social events.

Events by groups like pro.manchester and Downtown are really great at exposing you to knowledge rather than business cards. LightAFire is one event that's been setup to disseminate the experience of business leaders to younger talent.

Where do you take a client for a business lunch?

There's a lot of choice in Manchester – we like Grill On The Alley for lunch, Teacup for breakfast or afternoon tea, and Akbars in the evening. The Splendid Sausage Company is also a nice, informal place for a short meeting.

The award winning Manchester House is great for both drinks and food, although we're yet to find an occasion that demands the extravagance of the food.

Where’s great for a company night out?

We've had one company night out so far – that started with mini-golf, ended with dodgems and we ate at Nando's! Our Christmas party is at Cloud 23, the highest point in the city where you can purchase alcohol, and the views are incredible – worth any business trying.


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